Pure review: Has the potential to deepen our understanding of mental health

The Channel 4 show doesn’t get the mix of humour and sincerity quite right in the first episode, but all the ingredients are there

Trailer for Channel 4 series Pure

There’s little awareness of the condition known as “Pure O”. Although we may be familiar with the rituals and fixations of OCD, “Pure O” is specifically used to refer to those who are plagued by obsessive thoughts, but without the subsequent compulsive actions. These repeated intrusive thoughts can range in their nature, from violent fantasies to crippling doubt.

The protagonist of Channel 4’s new comedy series Pure, however, possesses a mind constantly assaulted by sexualised images of those around her. Or, as she more bluntly explains it: “I don’t see dead people, I see naked ones.”

Pure is forthright about its educational purpose. Written by newcomer Kirstie Swain, the series draws its material from Rose Cartwright’s firsthand account of life with “Pure O”, published in a book of the same name that documents not only her experiences, but her journey to understand her diagnosis and help others to do the same, by co-founding the grassroots mental health organisation Made of Millions.

And so Pure’s Marnie (Charly Clive) is appropriately direct in her tone. Following in the footsteps of Peep Show, the show is structured around the narration of her innermost thoughts. This allows Pure to take a lighthearted look at its subject, framing Marnie’s quest to understand her condition as a coming-of-age story of its own.

She’s a recent graduate who’s still stuck at home living with her parents in Dunwick, a small town on the Scottish borders. She’s socially awkward in a loveable way, and couldn’t land a joke to save her life – her idea of a witty chat-up line is “So… been gay for long?” In short, she ticks a lot of the boxes for a relatable hero of a Channel 4 comedy series and happily Clive, in her first TV role, certainly proves an endearing on-screen presence.

However, Marnie’s bid to escape her dreary hometown and move to London isn’t propelled by the usual desire to live life to the max, but by a pressing need to “find answers” to the chaos of her own mind. She not only has to deal with the usual growing pains of the quarter-life crisis, but also with relentless intrusive thoughts. There are revealed to the viewer as brief cutaways: an orgy of her family members, a doctor licking her own armpit, a bus full of nudists.

As much as Pure does exploit the comical outrageousness of these images, it also attempts to engage sincerely with the messiness of Marnie’s condition: it’s rare to see a show actually acknowledge that one of the biggest hurdles for those suffering from psychological disorders is how hard they can be to accurately detect and diagnose in the first place.

A visit to the doctor offers no solutions outside of the suggestion she might be gay. In fact, Marnie’s first sexual encounter with a woman sparks only more confusion and doubt.

The show has piled a lot onto its plate here. It’s attempting to educate its audience on a complex topic, to craft a recognisable narrative about a university graduate moving to London (her first accommodation is an actual broom closet), with a protagonist whose misadventures swing dramatically from the humorous to the heartbreaking.

Access unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows with Amazon Prime Video Sign up now for a 30-day free trial

Sign up

Pure doesn’t get this mix quite right in the first episode. Too much energy is spent on establishing how wild these intrusive thoughts are and how “f***ed up” Marnie’s life is compared to how this actually affects her emotionally. But the ingredients are all there, and Pure shows a real potential to not only entertain, but add a much-needed layer of depth and complexity to our understanding of mental health.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in